Honestly, not a lot of people knew that Ben Romer and I were friends. I only discovered that he passed away in the last day or two today because of a Facebook post. We were not close friends and yet I did consider him as a friend. I think it says something about him because I am very sure that there are soldiers and other people everywhere who crossed paths with Ben who feel the same way that I do – punched in the gut, shocked, and missing their loved one.
He was a courageous and independent member of the community of faith. Which community of faith? God’s. Ben submitted to teaching, conversation, thought and accountability to many others. As I reflected on Ben’s life today my mind kept declaring that “He had really lived.”
Ben was an early adopter of United Faith Leaders, even before it was United Faith Leaders. In its original form it was called “Clergy for Hire” because that is what people in the general public were actually searching for online. Ben was not afraid to publish his profile with us to serve in the world. He was willing to be our first interfaith member. He slapped down a few bucks to join. And he even became one of our busiest board members.
When Clergy for Hire launched the Clergy for Hire Podcast Ben Romer was our very first interview guest. The podcast is now called The Coffeepot Fellowship Daily Podcast and has interviewed about 70 guests. I have often considered how our interviews could be conceptualized as potential audio memoirs for people after they have passed. I think it stemmed from my concerns of losing the opportunity to capture some amazing stories while we have the chance. In my wildest dreams I never imagined that this interview would be a memoir so soon.
Please enjoy the above throwback episode to October of 2014 when we shared Ben Romer’s life story with our very first listeners.
Some Quotes and Paraphrasing of Rabbi Romer from the Podcast Interview:
“What I learned as a military chaplain is it’s not my responsibility to get you to where I am, it’s my responsibility to get you where you’re going.” – Ben Romer
1+1+1+1 = 1
“…challenging the heaven’s themselves… you challenge God. You’re not fully covenanted until you take God to the mat.”
“Religion is an adult experience.”
“It’s not God’s written word.” ‘Can you describe to me what a pear tastes like? Until you’ve had a pear it is impossible to communicate what a pear tastes like. Describing the experience of God can be like that and the writers of Torah (the teaching) can be like trying to describe the taste of a pear to someone who has never had a pear.’
Hesed = acts or deeds of loving kindness. You don’t get anything in return for the acts but they bring love.
“Every translation is a commentary.”
Advice to ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams, and all faith leaders:
- Listen – Be a compassionate, fully present listener.
- Ya gotta have hutzpah. You’ve got to be willing to take a stand. You’ve got to encounter the world beyond the walls. If you don’t do that then you’re just a functionary. You’ve gotta be prophetic. If you get fired for being prophetic then you’re in the wrong place.
- Everyone is on a sacred journey. You’ve got to be willing to welcome them and help them receive the tools to continue their journey.
Here is the way Ben offered himself to serve Greater Richmond as a paying member of United Faith Leaders:
Faith Tradition: Jewish (Reform/Progressive/Postdenominational)
I am an ordained Reform Rabbi. Currently, as the Spiritual Adviser of an emerging Jewish community in the Greater Richmond area I am devoted to helping build new and creative Jewish and spiritual experiences. Over the years I have served as the Spiritual Leader of synagogues in Virginia, Florida, Indiana, North and South Carolina. I am also a retired Army Chaplain, having served on Active Duty and in the National Guard. I have many years of experience helping couples create a wonderful beginning to their journey together. I will also officiate at Interfaith weddings and will work closely with you to help assure all families involved feel welcome and understand what is taking place . I can meet with you and conduct Skype sessions. I am also available for counseling, funerals, pastoral visits, and other pastoral needs.